Daniel Sipocz

What a difference a month makes. A month ago the Ball State University women's volleyball team (10-13, 3-7) was starting the Mid-American Conference slate with confidence and holding very high expectations.

It had no reason to even think that by Halloween it would be fifth in the MAC West, five games behind division leading Western Michigan University (16-9, 8-2), whom Ball State faces Friday night.

Yet, it's Halloween weekend and the Cardinals are in fifth place. If the season ended Friday Ball State would be the 10 seed and playing a road opening round game in the MAC Tournament.

"We have to take care of things on our side of the net to win and find solutions to our problems," coach Dave Boos said. "At this point, our best defense is going to be an even better offense."

A better offense will be needed this weekend if the Cardinals want to contend with the Broncos. Western Michigan is coming off an impressive 3-0 sweep over conference leading Ohio University.

"Yeah, they're a good team," outside hitter Charde' Phillips said. "But we've played well against them and Ohio. We're not too worried."

In fact, the sky-high confidence of Western Michigan could be a weakness in their armor.

"Western is always confident and we can use that to our benefit and surprise them," setter Brittany McGinnis said. "We know the scouting report and we know they're good, but they may overlook us because we have played like a roller coaster this year."

Northern Illinois University (12-11, 6-4) is also on tap this weekend for Ball State. Since opening the MAC slate with a 3-0 win at Worthen Arena over the Huskies, the Cardinals have gone 2-7, a trend they want to end soon.

"We want and need to win as soon as possible," Phillips said. "We just want to get some wins under our belt before the [MAC] tournament starts."

On the opposite side of the coin, Northern Illinois enters Saturday's contest with Ball State having won six of its last seven matches and has positioned itself to a second-place tie in the MAC West.

"This is a lengthy roadtrip for us and Northern is a tough place to play," Boos said. "We've gone back and forth with them over the last several years and it's a significant rivalry, especially with how well we played and beat them last time. I'm sure they'll be out for revenge."